“Danny! What are you doing here?
“I saw you come in,” he said softly.
“Oh, well, I’m surprised to see you. Aren’t you working today?”
His eyes widened. “It’s Sunday. Mr. Landers closes on Sunday. He likes for all of us to go to church like he does.” He smiled. “Mom can’t go anymore, but I do. I went with Rudy and Dee today.”
“I haven’t seen them in a couple of days. How are they?”
“Dee moved back home. Home with Rudy.” His smile widened.
“I’m so glad, Danny!”
“Yeah, so am I. She’s going to come over everyday and stay with Mom while I work. Fix us some dinner. Clean up. But I’m a good house cleaner, too.”
“I’ll bet you are.”
“I can do a lot of things. Sometimes people think I can’t. They think I’m dumb, but I’m not.”
“Of course, you’re not! They’re the dumb ones. Don’t ever pay attention to them.”
He shook his head. “No.”
Silence mingled with the dust mites in the air. “Did you want to talk to me, Danny?”
“Yeah. You said the other day we were friends.”
“I hope so.”
“So I can tell you things, and you won’t be mad?”
“I won’t be mad.” I wondered if he was going to confess to breaking into my room at the hotel.
“I heard Dee and Rudy talking about that man’s cell phone. The man who got shot.”
“Guy Langworth. Did you know him?”
“Sort of. Rudy said the police found the phone.”
“Right. That’s why I got arrested. I’m supposed to have left a message on his phone asking him to meet me in my room at the hotel.”
“I saw Dee’s boss throw it in the dumpster behind the hotel.”
A look of distaste crossed Danny’s sweet face. “Yeah. I don’t like him.”
“How’d you happen to see him, Danny?”
“I was taking an order to the hotel. Sometimes people call and ask for a sandwich from the deli, and Bud, the manager, lets me go on my bicycle. I have a big basket on the back. I like to do it.”
“I see, and when was this?”
“It was the same day the man got killed. Bud told me to take the order to the hotel and then go on home because it was almost five o’clock. I always park my bicycle in the alley because…” He stopped. “Chief Everton got mad at me one time for leaving it on the sidewalk in front of the computer store. He told me not to do it again. He didn’t have to yell at me. The bicycle wasn’t even in anybody’s way.”
I knew I had to press him for more details on the phone. “You’re sure you saw Mr. Aiken throw the phone in the dumpster? Did he see you?”
“I saw him take a phone out of his pocket and stand on a box and drop it in. I don’t think he saw me. I grabbed the box and went around front while he was still standing on the box.”
“That was smart, Danny,” I said. “Did you tell Dee? Or Rudy?”
He shook his head. “I don’t want to bother them. They’re together again. I want them to stay together.”
“I do, too. But you have to tell somebody.”
“I’m telling you, Trixie.”
“I’m glad you told me.”
“I don’t want to tell Chief Everton. I don’t like him. When he got mad at me, he called me a dummy. I’m not a dummy.”
“No, you’re not, and I don’t know what’s wrong with him. When I was growing up, he was a good cop. All the kids liked and trusted him. But he’s changed.”
Danny looked down at his feet. “Trixie, I saw something else, but you’ll be mad.”
“No, I won’t, Danny, I promise. You can tell me anything.”
He pressed his lips together for a long moment. “When I was going into the hotel with the box of sandwiches…I saw your mother coming out. She even bumped my arm. She was in a hurry.”
The walls seemed to close in around me. “Oh, Danny. Oh, Danny.”
“I saw her. She bumped me and didn’t even say sorry. Are you mad at me, Trixie?”
I took a deep breath. “I’m not mad, Danny. In fact, you’re taking care of me just the way you take care of Dee. I don’t have a brother to do that.”
His squared his shoulders a little. “I’ll take care of you, Trixie. I like you.”
“Oh, Danny, I like you, too. And Dee and Rudy and your mom, too. Look, I’m staying with the Drake sisters who used to have a shop here in the building. Do you know where they live?”
He shook his head.
“Well, can you follow me on your bicycle if I drive slow?”
“Stella brought home some chocolate fudge ice cream yesterday. We’ll have a big bowl and figure out what to do.”
His eyes lit up. “I like ice cream.”
“So do I. Let’s go then. Be careful not to get too close to my car.”
Making a mental note to arrange for a better lock on the building, I secured the door and backed out of the alley. In my rear view mirror, I could see Danny falling in behind me with plenty of space to spare.
Mitch’s car stood at the curb in front of the Drake sisters’ house. Relief flooded me. Danny could tell him his story, and Mitch would know what to do. Danny, suddenly shy, hung back as we approached the front door. “Maybe I better go home,” he said.
“Please don’t, Danny,” I said. “We got lucky—Mitch is exactly the person who’ll know what to do with your information.”
He twisted his hands together. “I don’t know.”
“Please trust me,” I said. “We’re friends, remember? I wouldn’t do anything I thought wouldn’t be good for you.”
He might have still been nervous as I made the introductions inside, but he looked Stella, Letha, and Mitch in the eye and shook hands like a perfect gentleman. “Danny has quite a story to tell,” I said. Then I glanced at Stella. “And we’re both starving for chocolate fudge ice cream.”
Buoyed by the ice cream, Danny told his story without hesitation. I blessed Mitch for the quiet, patient way he questioned Danny and watched the young man relax. Finally Mitch leaned back and said, “Danny, I’m going to call Trixie’s lawyer and tell him everything you’ve told me. He’ll want to talk to you, too, if that’s all right.”
“Sure, Mitch,” Danny said. “I want to help Trixie.”
“I think you’ve done just that,” Mitch assured him.
Danny stood up. “I have to go home. Dee said she’d leave supper for Mom and me.”
Mitch walked with him to the door, and I heard him say, “Thank you for coming forward, Danny. You’ve done a very good thing.” Then he came back into the sitting room and looked around. “Well,” he said. “Well.”